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[ metamorphosis ]
This time is different and the Doctor knows it the moment Jack opens the door. There´s no brilliant smile, no blindingly white teeth welcoming him into Jack´s home. There´s just a nod and Jack stepping away from the door to grab his coat.
Have I come at a bad time,’ the Doctor asks softly as they walk down the street to the nearest pub. It´ll be a different pub this time from the last two. A hundred Earth years have passed since they last met, and Jack´s living in a completely different solar system.
It´s never a bad time when you come, Doctor,’ Jack says with a grin that´s not even half of what it should be. And if it was I still wouldn´t send you away because I never know if it´ll be the last time I ever see you.’
You´ll see me again, Jack,’ the Doctor says, and this is where it gets hard, finding that narrow path between too much and not enough. The things that he can say and can´t say. He knows the future in ways Jack can´t until it becomes his present. I can promise you that.’
They sit at a tall table, things so different and yet so the same to what they have been in the past, because people evolve but they never really change. Jack orders something in the shape of a laser gun and the Doctor orders a good old fashioned beer.
Jack´s silence only serves to illustrate the fact that he isn´t himself tonight, because on any other night Jack would have accused him of being retro. Beer is out of style in the 25th Century and won´t be back in until the 40th.
What is it, Jack,’ he asks, staring at him until Jack turns to look at him.
Jack shrugs, twirling a small green wand in his drink, changing the color of the liquid it from blue to green to orange to black. Same old thing, Doc.’
No, you´re different,’ the Doctor says, and Jack stiffens in a way that makes the Doctor even more worried. This time is different, I can feel it.’
How,’ Jack asks, looking at him, searching his eyes. How do I feel different to you?’
I don´t know,’ the Doctor says, and he honestly doesn´t. You just I´ve never seen you this way before.’
Jack remains silent and finishes his drink, ordering another with the flick of his wrist and without even bothering to flirt with the waitress. Finally, new drink in hand and a cigarette in the other-- and since when does Jack smoke?-- Jack turns to look at the Doctor and quirks an eyebrow up. Wanna see my new trick?’
The Doctor frowns, shaking his head. Jack. Tell me what´s wrong.’
I have a new trick, Doctor,’ Jack says, blatantly ignoring the Doctor´s angry glare at being brushed off again. Don´t you want to see it?’
The Doctor rolls his eyes. Okay, fine, yes, Jack, let me see your new trick.’
Jack looks at him and smiles. A haunting kind of smile that makes the hair on the back of the Doctor´s neck stand up and a chill run down his spine.
That´s when it happens, he can feel it pushing at the boundaries of his brain until finally he stops resisting and allows it in. I´m changing, Doctor.’
He blinks, because it was Jack´s voice but Jack´s lips had never moved. What?’
The Doctor leans forward, peering into Jack´s eyes. Did you just telepathically tell me that you´re changing?’ And the Doctor isn´t easily surprised, but this takes him off guard. Of course, it shouldn´t have. He knows who Jack will be, knows who he will become, and yet it does. It leaves him reeling.
Jack leans forward, lowering his voice. I´m changing Doctor. I´m changing on a physiological level. I can feel it. It´s not just age, it´s not a grey hair here and there, it´s not vanity I´m metamorphosizing into someone-- some thing-- else.’
The Doctor reaches out and takes Jack´s hand in his, and he really should have thought of this. Of course Jack wouldn´t change from what he is now into what he will become without some sort of growing process, without some sort of transitory phase. When did it start?’
Jack doesn´t even look surprised that the Doctor is taking this in stride and it occurs to him that perhaps Jack had always known that there were things the Doctor wasn´t telling him. A few years,’ he says softly. Ten or so.’
Is that what this is then,’ the Doctor asks, motioning in a circular motion. The difference, is this the reason why you´re so sad?’
It´s not so much sadness,’ Jack says, looking away. The sadness I´ve learnt to deal with. Losing people. Outliving everyone, everything. Knowing things I can´t share with anyone else but you. The isolation. I´ve learnt to handle that.’
So what is it then, if not sadness,’ Doctor asks, scooting his chair closer to Jack because it feels like Jack´s closing himself off, which is something Jack´s never done with him.
I´m scared, Doctor,’ Jack whispers, looking at him and finally for the first time tonight there´s actual emotion in Jack´s eyes. That it´s fear he´s seeing breaks the Doctor´s hearts. What am I becoming? What will I be?’
Oh, Jack,’ the Doctor says, reaching over to put an arm around him, rubbing Jack´s arm comfortingly as he tries to think of what he can say. Because there´s so much he can´t say right now. Like ‘something wonderful´, like ‘the most beautiful creature I´ve ever come across in my existence´, like ‘the savior of humanity.´ So he just looks at Jack and smiles. You´ll be you, Jack. Just more.’
More,’ Jack asks, laughing a little hysterically. More what?’
You´re evolving, Jack,’ the Doctor says softly. Like humanity does, like everything does. You´re becoming more. Not better, not worse, just different. More.’
I just ’ Jack closes his eyes, leaning into the Doctor´s touch, and the Doctor is eternally grateful that he had chosen now to see Jack again, that he could be here for him in this. I feel so out of sorts. I don´t even know who I am right now.’
Well that´s simple,’ the Doctor says lightly, grinning. You´re Jack.’
Jack laughs. That notwithstanding who is Jack?’
Jack is the man that had every reason to be angry with the world and yet saved it, time and time again,’ the Doctor says, squeezing Jack´s shoulder. Jack´s the man that gave his life to save me n´Rose.’ He looks at him. Jack´s the man that spent a year tied up in chains when he could have escaped at any time to give me time to come up with a plan.’
Jack finally opens his eyes to meet the Doctor´s. That´s who I am with you,’ Jack says softly, brokenly. Who would I be if I´d never met you?’
The Doctor grins and purposefully ignores the point. Luckily for us, we´ll never have to know.’
Jack rolls his eyes and they sit in silence for a few long moments. The Doctor orders another beer as Jack continues to nurse his own drink.
Eventually Jack sighs and then looks at him miserably. I just wish ’
You wish what,’ the Doctor asks when Jack doesn´t continue.
Jack looks at him, guarded. For a moment the Doctor thinks Jack´s changed his mind, that whatever it was has been discarded and he´ll just shut off again. It hurts that Jack can shut him out, that Jack would shut him out, because Jack´s always been closed off to everyone except him.
After a while, Jack speaks. I wish there´s something I've wanted.’ He pauses and the Doctor can almost hear the struggle happening inside Jack´s head. He puts his hand on Jack´s and gives it a reassuring squeeze. Jack lets out a heavy sigh. I can´t ask you for this.’
You can ask me for anything, Jack,’ the Doctor says soberly. You should know that by now.’
Jack looks at him and his lips don´t move at all when he asks the Doctor to take him home.